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Virgin Atlantic opening a Clubhouse at Manchester, as Thomas Cook creates a big opportunity

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Whilst the entire airline industry was publicly expressing its sadness at the collapse of Thomas Cook last week, the truth is that the failure of the airline division opens up a lot of new opportunities.

In regional short-haul, Ryanair, Jet2 and easyJet will be keen to pick up the additional business.

At London Gatwick, British Airways has already said that it will be bidding for the Thomas Cook slots.  I would also expect Virgin Atlantic to be interested.

The real opportunity for Virgin Atlantic, however, is at Manchester.

Manchester Airport new Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

There was, amongst Virgin Atlantic staff, a feeling that Manchester was only big enough for one long-haul hub carrier.  With Thomas Cook out of the picture, and neither British Airways or Norwegian looking suitable candidates to buy the long-haul slots, Virgin Atlantic is looking in good shape to capitalise.

This was Thomas Cook’s long-haul network in Summer 2019:

  • Cancun – Glasgow, Gatwick, Manchester
  • Cayo Coco (Cuba) – Gatwick, Manchester
  • Holguin – Gatwick, Manchester
  • Las Vegas – Manchester
  • Los Angeles – Manchester
  • Montego Bay – Manchester
  • New York JFK – Manchester
  • Orlando – Glasgow, Gatwick, Manchester
  • Punta Cana – Manchester
  • San Francisco – Manchester
  • Seattle – Manchester
  • Varadero – Manchester

As you can see, there is a lot of potential here for Virgin Atlantic to pick up additional routes from Manchester.  The snag is that only 38% of Thomas Cook flights were sold as ‘seat only’ – the rest were sold as packages, mainly via Thomas Cook itself, and that business may well be gone forever unless Virgin Holidays ramps up its operations considerably.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Manchester Terminal 2 extension

Back to that new Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in Manchester …..

The point of the discussion above was to allow you to set the Virgin Atlantic announcement on Friday in context.

This is what the airline promised:

Allocating a Boeing 747 to the majority of Manchester to New York JFK flights, leading to a substantial increase in seating capacity

Adding a 3rd weekly service to Barbados for the Winter 2019 season

Announcing the long planned opening of a Clubhouse in the new pier at Manchester Terminal 2 (image above), which is due to open in “Spring 2020”

Refurbishing the Virgin Atlantic V-Room, the lounge used by Virgin Holidays customers

There was also, for Gatwick customers, the announcement of two additional weekly flights to Barbados this Winter, taking the total to nine.

We don’t know much about the new Clubhouse except:

“In order to provide an unrivalled travel experience, Virgin Atlantic will bring its iconic Clubhouse lounge to Manchester for the first time from Spring 2020.  Upper Class customers and Gold Card members can take advantage of the exclusive space before their flight, which will include a la carte dinning and a full service bar, quiet working spaces and a spa, allowing passengers to relax and rejuvenate before they depart.”

Given how appalling all of the existing lounges are at Manchester Terminal 2, this will be a massive improvement for Virgin’s Upper Class customers.  I am keen to take a look next Spring.

Looking forward, this statement is clearly a response to the demise of Thomas Cook:

“The airline is now reviewing options to add further flights and new destinations to its Winter 2019 / Summer 2020 schedule. A greater number of flights from both Gatwick and Manchester to Orlando will come into effect during peak travel periods, with further details to be announced shortly.”

Seats for the new Manchester/Gatwick to Barbados services will go on sale tomorrow, although I do not yet know what dates they are operating.  It may be an opportunity to pick up a Winter break to Barbados with your Virgin Flying Club miles ……

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Manchester Terminal 2

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  1. I thought I read that IAG rather than BA specifically BA that would be bidding for the Gatwick slots.

    And of course VS / DL would also be more than interested as well.

    And it might be easier for Jet Blue to get some LGW slots for a lot less dosh than LHR.

    But yet definitely an opportunity for VS / DL to expand at MAN especially if they can bring in connecting pax via Flybe / Connect once that takeover has been finalised.

    Plus there is a trained and motivated Thomas Cook workforce to recruit from as well.

    • Only airlines can hold airport slots rights. The most likely scenario will be BA asking for the slots and handing them out to IAG sister airlines as needed.

  2. Interesting and long overdue upgrade for VS MAN UC pax.

    Any news on when end to end VS redemptions will be possible with FlyBE connections?

  3. The more VS miles spending opportunities the better!

  4. Mr(s) Entitled says:

    Do Virgin have sufficient capacity in their fleet to react?

    • I’m sure Delta do.

      I’d worry that BA would only want slots as a spoiler – probably rent them out.

    • There will be leasing companies with surplus long haul planes now that have been returned to them from TC, who will looking to get them back earning with reasonable haste

      • I have no idea how long the leases are for the ex-Air Berlin 330s, but having gone to the expense of putting them into a VS config it would make sense to keep them on after the 787 issues are resolved.
        It also wouldn’t surprise me to see the retirement dates of the 747s pushed back if VS can fill them on leisure routes.

    • memesweeper says:

      If they just want to grab the slots then FlyBe/Virgin Connect is well placed to take advantage for the short term.

      For new long haul TCook’s old A330 could be repurposed, but they’re not very new planes. I’ve no idea if that’s attractive to Virgin. On the other hand they are likely to be fairly cheap.

  5. I’ve only ever been on a B747 to JFK from MAN so not sure how significant that change is. Much prefer the new A350 tbh.
    If I could have a wishlist of new routes for VS then ORD & YVR would be up there.

  6. Surely the big innovation needed at Manchester is a private security channel as is the case at LHR for VS premium pax? Whilst LHR & BHX are closer to me, at a pinch I could go from MAN but the tales of woe about security don’t exactly do much to help sell the idea.

    • The private terminal opens on 21st October. You will be driven to your plane.

      • It’s only for hand luggage at the minute!!
        Tried the 1903 lounge at Manchester last week and it was very good.

        • They seem to have 2 categories. £50 for hand luggage only and no lounge access, or £100 for checked luggage and lounge access.

          Thing is, the typical discount i’ve clocked is £200-£300 per person. If you have to take £100 off that to be treated like a grown up, then I’d probably just stomach the extra & the shorter journey time by heading to Heathrow.

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      New terminal at MAN nearly open. If you haven’t been for a while you will notice a real difference with a lot of change to the road/rail infrastructure.

      Security isn’t great now granted but with £1bn investment underway, two runways, etc it has the potential to soon be the best airport in the UK for passenger experience.

      • But every where has the potential to be the best. Manchester’s problem will be undoing the justifiable perception it’s an awful airport. I flew AA to Philadelphia twice in 2017, and I have no plans to ever return. AA are fine, Manchester was the worst experience ever, the security staff were rude and useless, and no amount of building work will fix that.

        • The Savage Squirrel says:

          To be fair, in terms of undoing perceptions that you’re a rubbish airport, I’m not sure what more you can do on top of spending £1Bn rebuilding the whole thing!!! Can’t comment on individuals as they will always vary, but security experience as an average should improve immeasurably vs the 2017/18 nadir without the overstretched facility leading to long queues, grumpy passengers and stressed harrassed security staff.

          • Michael says:

            The real issue with MAN is their asinine interpretation of the liquid security rules. Things magically become liquids in Manchester that no other airport bats an eyelid at. Combined with ridiculous queues for re-screening of bags and the experience is beyond awful

        • However awful it is, I do wish BA would transfer just one of their many daily flights to NYC there!

      • But currently, it’s the worst.

  7. Michael C says:

    O/T because no bits today:
    Looking at the bonus avios promotion I see in the Ts&Cs:
    “7.2. Any combination of a Flights + Hotel, Flights + Car, or Flights + Hotel + Car booking where the flight element of the booking must originate in the UK.”
    I’m presuming this disqualifies me if I’m flying from the Netherlands, but via the UK? It’s not part of the flight promotion Ts&Cs however.

  8. A la carte dinning sounds noisy…

  9. Oh Matron! says:

    This could work very well for VS… Especially with FlyBe too. I was at a conference last month in Vegas and some of my Dutch counterparts flew via MAN from AMS due to the partnership. This can only get better.

    Regarding a proper Clubhouse: a roadside caravan serving hotdogs would be an improvement….!

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      Indeed, – the current abysmal lounge situation (all T2 – not just Virgin) probably drives away considerable premium traffic that can choose to go through either Manchester or London (basically the whole of the Midlands). A decent Clubhouse could make quite a few MAN routes a lot more Upper-heavy and therefore profitable.

      • Great to have a VS Clubhouse at last. Wonder what the other premium carriers have in store for lounges at T2? I can’t imagine SQ, QR and CX passengers find the lounge options appealing compared to what’s available at LHR on those same carriers.

        Will we see SQ contract the VS Clubhouse for its MAN-SIN/IAH premium paxs? I think SQ still partner/codeshare with VS so makes some sense.

        I hear that domestic will be added to what is T2, allowing BA to move over, and perhaps a new BA lounge could then cater for the other OW carriers. I assume AA, AY and IB will move to new T2 if BA moves and once T1 is demolished.

        Is T3 going to be the LCC terminal once the terminal transformations are done?

  10. the irony that just over a month ago VS announced that they were shifting a plane from MAN to LGW

    • I think shifting a VS aircraft off the 3 times weekly MAN-BOS A330 service, for DL to pick it up as a daily 757 service on their metal neutral JV.

      Be interesting to see if VS/DL pick up slots to run SFO and SEA now that TCX is off those routes, on DL metal until VS have spare aircraft in their fleet capacity. Interesting times for MAN.

  11. Re: Virgin redemptions on ANA, why does nobody sort redemptions according to taxes. I could pay just 10,000 miles for a round the world trip but I don’t care if I have to pay the same amount of cash as a normal flight. Apart from ANA, what are the sweet spot redemptions PRICE-WISE for Virgin miles?

    • Because ANA flies from loads of European cities to Tokyo and the taxes should match a cash ticket.

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